Stu Witt elected Commercial Space Federation chair

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Stu Witt elected Commercial Space Federation chairAmbassador and catalyst for the local aerospace industry Stuart O. Witt has been elected chair of the Commercial Spaceflight Federa-tion, whose membership aims to establish safety, expertise and growth in private spaceflight.

Witt became a critical part of the commercial space effort almost as soon as he took over management of then-Mojave Airport 10 years ago. In that time helped secure its designation as the nation’s first inland spaceport and the birthplace of commercial space endeavors in the U.S.

During that time Witt led the air and space port through a period of exponential growth in contracts and jobs, as well as international-attention-grabbing events such as Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 for being the first successful private spaceflight.

Witt and his team’s efforts have earned him commendations from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and elected officials from virtually every level of government.

Among Witt’s current endeavors is the promotion of legislative support for California’s aerospace industry — which faces poaching effort from other states that continue to increase incentives for local companies willing to relocate. (See related story, this page.)

House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, state Sen. Jean Fuller, Assemblyman Steve Knight and Kern County 2nd District Super-visor Zack Scrivner visited Mojave last week to meet with aerospace executives and innovators to discuss ways in which levels of government can help promote an economic and regulatory climate that both improves technology and creates high-end jobs in the industry.

“I applaud Stu’s election to chairman — the commercial spaceflight industry has chosen a strong, commonsense advocate for growth and innovation that occurs there,” said McCarthy. “I continue to be impressed with the innovation that occurs there.”

He credits Witt with fostering an environment where entrepreneurs can push the envelope and continue building a vibrant industry.

“He has proven over the years just how tireless and committed he is in making commercial space travel a viable industry,” said Fuller. “I can’t think of someone who is better positioned and with more relevant experience or passion to lead the federation.”

“Witt’s appointment will greatly enhance Mojave’s profile as the world leader in commercial spaceflight research, development and testing, and can only improve our efforts to retain and recruit more cutting-edge companies and jobs,” said Scrivner, whose district includes both Mojave and Edwards Air Force Base.

Witt has been just as enthusiastically welcomed by his federation colleagues, which include representatives of such industry leaders as SpaceX, XCOR and Virgin Galactic.

“Stuart will be invaluable to CSF as chairman during this crucial time for the industry, said Eric Anderson, the immediate past chair. He said that Witt’s past experience as a naval aviator, engineering test pilot and business executive will provide “essential leadership” to the federation.

CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria, former commander of the international space station, added his praise for Witt’s rare combination of experience as an aviator along with proven business acumen. “Mr. Witt has written the book on how to effectively operate a commercial spaceport,” he said.

“I am extremely honored to have been chosen,” said Witt. “As an organization of industry leaders, the federation will play a crucial role in the burgeoning commercial space industry as companies begin powered flight testing and flying passengers and payloads to space.

“This industry has an incredible potential to create cutting-edge technology, provide safe and routine access to space from U.S. soil and bring high-tech jobs to the American people. The CSF has made great strides recently due to the steadfast leadership of Eric Anderson, who has taken the organization to a new level.

“I look forward to working with the CSF president, executive board and members to further the industry’s initiatives.”

Story First Published: 2012-09-11